RECORDING THE HISTORY OF 2/503
THROUGH ITS REPORTS AND JOURNALS

McNERNEY'S S-1 JOURNAL

 

Lieutenant Colonel George M. Jones is now Commanding Officer of the 503d Parachute Infantry Regiment.  Lieutenant Colonel Joe S. Lawrie remains as regimental executive officer.  Major John W. Britten takes command of the 2d  Battalion, and Captain Lawson B. Caskey is the battalion executive officer. 

Each have their problems. 

Colonel Jones must form three separate units,  each of which have little love for one another, into one regiment. Major Britten has similar problem, for "D" Company is an intruder in a battalion which has yet to become the 2d Battalion, 503d PIR.  It is still the first of the parachute battalions, the 501st Parachute Battalion.  "D" Company, which is still "A" Company, 504th  PIR, is still a separate unit.  

Within the ranks and enlisted men, there are the rivalries, jealousies and the espirit de corps of four separate units,  each forced to unite under orders of Army.

 

 

Army Regulations require that units, down to and including companies and batteries, keep journals of their activities.  If complete journals were kept, then all that would have to be done to find out what each company did, and when they did it, would be to read their journal. 

The problem is that many units did not comply with this regulation, or if they did, the journals have been lost.  Even in compliance, many journals were not thorough — actions went entirely unrecorded, were incompletely recorded and sometimes not even factually recorded.

 Methods varied within the various companies for keeping the journals.  In some the first sergeants and the company clerk were the recorders.  In others an officer was assigned to do the work.  In at least one company these over lapped as regards to the action on Corregidor.  That was in "E" Company, where the first sergeant kept a journal.  Soon after the Company returned to Mindoro, Hudson Hill, "E" Company's commander, assigned 1st Lt. Donald Abbott to write up the company's journal.  Abbott did this before he left to command "A" Company, and, by all verifiable accounts, his journals are the most accurate and can be relied upon.  It is regrettable that some of the authors of recent books did not consult this journal before they wrote of "E" Company’s actions on Corregidor.

Don Abbott had been in "A" Company, 504th Parachute Infantry, and came to Australia with the 503d on the Poelau Laut. At the time, the 503d included men of the 501st and 504th.   John Lindgren arrived from San Francisco via Brisbane in October 1943 with the first large group of replacements after the regiment returned from Nadzab.  These replacements comprised about three hundred and fifty men and a small group of officers.  Bill Calhoun arrived in the third replacement group and was assigned to "F" Company as of 3 January 1944.  Lindgren was assigned to "E" Company where Abbott was now assigned.  Other groups of replacements were to follow during the next few months.  Many of the officers and men of the 501stt Parachute Battalion were being rotated home, and the main job ahead for Lt. Col. George M. Jones was to unite the rivalries of four separate units into a single regiment.

The files of the 503d, those of them remaining to be found, are in the National Archives at Suitland, Maryland, and the Military History Institute at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.  They are not consolidated, and there have been several solid weeks of research, stretching over numerous visits, just in uncovering the journals for all the companies in the 2d Battalion, "A" Company, and the 161st Parachute Engineer Company. "Bless 'Em All" could not have been written without the exhaustive dedication of John Lindgren and Don Abbott.

When the 503d was in action there were long periods when it was very difficult to keep the morning reports.  The tactical mission came first, and it took all of the units meagre resources to accomplish their primary mission. The journal was largely kept by referring to the morning reports and memory.  Consequently much of the recording of events was from memory, or was simply incomplete. For example:-

* "F" Company’s actions on Noemfoor, for instance, are poorly recorded, because the Company  was committed in the heavy jungle interior for weeks. 

*On Corregidor, the names of the first two men killed, 16 February, were not even recorded. 

* Also erroneously recorded that day was the 1st platoon’s attack on Battery Wheeler. It was not so much an attack, but an effort to get Sergeant Freihoff and Pfc. Huff out of the trap there. 

* The only report of the company’s greatest moment of glory, their defense of  Way Hill and Battery Hearn magazine throughout the night of 18/19 February, is noted in the brief understatement, “Fighting was bitter during the night as the enemy attacked time and time again." 

*"F" Company landed on Negros 7 April.  It was not until about 29 April that the first sergeants and company clerks were called back to the RCT headquarters to write up their morning reports.  This was no one’s fault.  The fighting on Negros occurred during the first two months.  As a consequence, no details of the actions in which twelve "F" Company men died during this time can be found in the reports. 

Whilst administrative actions at Company level were very slow due to combat, at higher levels the journals could be more accurately maintained. The 2d Battalion journal was excellent throughout the operations.  1st Lt. Thomas P. McNerney, S-1, kept an excellent journal covering the company and the headquarters during the Noemfoor operation, Leyte, Mindoro, and Corregidor.  After Corregidor, McNerney was assigned to command a company, but the journal was well kept on Negros.  "D" Company always kept a good journal throughout the operations. Every platoon in the company performed magnificently and the company performed as a unit; whereas, actions before had been as individual platoons. 

During the passing of the years, there has been a continuing project to compile the history of the 2nd Bn based upon the journals at both company and battalion levels,  the morning reports, casualty lists, private diaries and personal recollections. There has been much re-examination and reflection, for to present the journals alone in their raw state would be a disservice to the heritage of the 503d, and to history.  The comments and commentaries which follow are written and compiled predominantly by William T. Calhoun, one of the three young men who came to the 503d as Lieutenants, and in one manner or another, never left. Together with John D. Lindgren and Donald E. Abbott, Calhoun has been, and still is, working on this history, and though their work will  cease upon their passing,  the work on "Bless 'Em All" will continue.

 
   

 

 

 

 

 

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Last Updated: 20-09-11